hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, June 14, 2002
The reason the Republicans chose Starr to argue the
CFR case is the same reason that Paal, White & Kelly
will get off scot-free. The Republicans realize that
almost always the way to minimize political damage
from a budding scandal is to refuse to give the
allegations any legitimacy. Unless the allegations are
simple and compelling enough for the broader public to
understand and pay attention to (eg. pardons for
cash), or the broadcast media is strongly on your side
(eg. Whitewater), or both, you can almost always get
away with portraying any allegation as "just more
partisan politics"

On the other hand, even baseless allegations can be
politically damaging if you grant them legitimacy.
Whitewater was a fraud, but because Congressional
Democrats were unwilling to dismiss the allegations,
Whitewater gained the holiest of grails, "bipartisan

That means that the potentially vulnerable Bush
appointees are in fact invulnerable. They can't be
prosecuted even if they have broken laws, because the
Bushies will refuse to appoint a special rosecutor,
and they have taken care to fill key DOJ positions
with partisan hacks. And short of prosecution, no
allegation need necessarily stick, unless the
broadcast media is willing to relentlessly pound the
administration on it, which they have so far been
unwilling to do.

Similarly, as the Republicans avoid giving scandalous
allegations against them any bipartisan legitimacy,
they seek to aquire as much legitimacy as possible for
their own partisans. Right now, Starr is seen as a
partisan. But after he wins this Supreme Court case,
he aquires a shiny new peg, "illustrious Supreme Court
Case winning jurist" Kenneth Starr. In other words,
Starr is chosen not for the benefit of the
Campaign-Finance case, but for the benefit of Starr's
reputation, and thus the reputation of the
conservative movement. They can afford to do this
because they know the Felonious Five will give them
what they want no matter who argues the case.

As for the McCain-Feingold bill itself, the "60 days"
provision is clearly unconstitutional. It is legal to
regulate the conduct of politicians, eg. how much
money they can accept and who they can coordinate
with. It is clearly illegal to regulate the conduct
of organizations independent of the politicians. Of
course this leads to the question ofwhat do
"independent" and "coordination"" mean. I haven't seen
a good answer. It could mean either something quite
draconian, or something quite lax.

Nothing illustrates the henny-penny silliness of the
Washington establishment better than their orgy of
self-congratulation over this underwhelming piece of
legislation. Gore's "Democracy endowment" was a much
better, coherent idea, even if it was unrealistic.

Maybe after the failure of McCain-Feingold to change
things for the better becomes apparent, the cretins
(i.e. McConnell, Delay) and the goo-goos , can strike
a deal: unlimited donations with full disclosure for
the cretins, in exchange for a minimal level of public
financing for the goo-goos.

a timely quote:

"the immediate cause of the German defeat was the
unheard of folly of attacking the USSR while Britain
was still undefeated and America was manifestly
getting ready to fight. Mistakes of this magnitude can
only be made, or at any rate they are most likely to
be made, in countries where public opinion has no
power. So long as the common man can get a hearing,
such elementary rules as not fighting all your enemies
simultaneously are less likely to be violated."

George Orwell, "reflections on James Burnham"